In early August, the Office of Convocation sent out a survey to alumni from the classes of 2020 and 2021. The survey asked graduates about their interest in having an in-person convocation ceremony, as well as posed questions about timing and keynote speakers.

Updates from the university

“The university is aware of the strong desire to celebrate 2020 and 2021 graduates,” wrote a U of T spokesperson about the survey results in a statement to The Varsity.

The U of T spokesperson indicated that the university hopes to fulfill the graduates’ wish for in-person ceremonies. “We continue to plan to welcome back graduates of 2020 and 2021 before the new year, with separate in-person graduation events complete with core ceremonial elements of convocation.” 

The U of T spokesperson wrote that alumni from the classes of 2020 and 2021, “can expect to receive more details regarding the celebration via email in the coming weeks.”

In June, U of T held in-person convocation ceremonies for its 2022 graduating students and plans to hold another round of ceremonies in November, subject to changes in public health recommendations.  

Previous cancellations 

In 2020, U of T cancelled in-person convocation events due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated provincial restrictions on large gatherings. 

While the university organized a virtual ceremony, graduating students felt disappointed at having missed out on the customary in-person ceremony. More than 25,000 individuals signed a petition asking the university to postpone in-person convocation for spring 2020 graduates instead of cancelling ceremonies. 

The website of the Office of Convocation explains that it was a “difficult decision” to cancel the 2020 and 2021 convocations, but the provincial and federal government regulations made it difficult to hold the gatherings in compliance with social distancing.

Deferring graduation may not have been an option for all students as this option is restricted in  some degree programs. Deferring graduation may also have implications for graduate school applications or employment options. 

In 2020, the University of Toronto Student Union (UTSU) also released a statement urging the university to “find a future date for safe and accessible convocation ceremonies.” The UTSU added that “the cancellation of convocation ceremonies is not in line with the University’s otherwise flexible and thoughtful approach to a student-facing solution.”